Sunday, April 01, 2007

Moving to The Cloud...

A few years ago there was a lot of hype surrounding Microsoft's brand new .NET strategy - the central idea was that computing would move off the desktop and onto the internet. In the future, I once told my computer science students, people would no longer buy things like Microsoft Word and Excel on a CD in a box and own their software. Instead, they would simply pay a monthly fee to Microsoft and use Word and Excel via the internet.

Today, it is downright striking how fast computing is moving off of the desktop and into the Internet Cloud. Jason Tanz of Wired Magazine writes how "online video archives, encyclopedias, photo managers, calendars, accounting programs, even online word processors and spreadsheets are becoming ubiquitous".

This is the concept of software-as-service, and it's pervading everywhere. I recently acquired a new computer, and, after installing the operating system, I sat down all excited to pimp out the machine with lots of mind-blowing software. But after thirty seconds of deep thinking and reflection, it suddenly dawned on me that almost all the everyday programs people use exist in the Internet Cloud. As long as you have a web browser and internet connection, you can check email, IM friends, get your news, word process, watch videos, and listen to music. And after that, how much do 90% of people really use their computers for?

We've already reached the point in computing evolution where the very idea of buying software in a shrink-wrapped box is as outdated as MS-DOS. High school kids can't even imagine such a world, and, in some ways, maybe that's a good thing.

It is perhaps the ultimate irony, however, that Microsoft's embracing of the software-as-service mentality is indeed already weakening the (former?) monopolist's power. After all, who stands to lose more from the end of desktop computing than Redmond?


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